Understanding “Sales”

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Most advisers shun the word sales, but, then again, most want to grow their revenue.

Imagine for the next five minutes that sales is a highly regarded, even noble, profession. It’s the profession with which everyone wants to be associated. In many people’s minds, high sales means providing legitimate help to more people. In other words, advisers with the highest sales help the most people—or provide greater help to clients—than do low producers.

Certain advisers kid themselves, assuming that they automatically are “purer” than high producers. But, for another five minutes, let’s accept that nothing could be further from the truth. What does that change? Well, for one thing, an adviser can no longer hide behind a fictitious noble perception—because the commonly accepted belief now is that the largest producers keep up to date, are embraced by clients and prospects alike, and always do what is in their clients’ best interests.

Getting back to reality . . .

Some advisers become over-exposed to sales technique early in their careers, especially if they worked in a wirehouse. But when they leave that environment, do they leave too much of what they learned behind? Is there a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

For example, common sales management techniques include using valuable tools such as:

  • The sales funnel, which quantifies levels of diminishing response:
    • Start with all contacts on a distribution list
    • Contact those who respond to an event, mailings, or specific activity
    • Then, follow up with those interacted with
    • Next, follow up with those who engage in a first meeting, second meeting, and so on
    • And finally, follow up with the number who become clients
  • Forecasting future revenue in increments of time (for example, 30, 60, or 90 days) helps sales professionals embrace realistic expectations instead of wishful thinking. Being realistic about revenue anticipated in the short term stimulates revenue growth by generating activity today that yields results tomorrow.
  • Pipeline management is similar to forecasting. It includes maintaining the names of specific individuals who have a high potential for becoming clients, helping to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks when the adviser gets busy with other work.
  • Activity tracking holds the adviser responsible for doing things known to generate revenue (for example, asking for referrals, calling clients and prospects, dripping, networking).

Perhaps, instead of shunning sales, we need to embrace the possibility that there is a widespread lack of sophistication among advisers when it comes to managing individual sales processes. Why does it matter? As an independent adviser, you are your own sales manager.

Okay, this was a pretend situation. Certainly, if you look around, you can find scoundrels who give our industry a bad name. But scoundrels aside, do advisers need to review the assumptions they hold about high producers? Perhaps a lesson learned is that the individual adviser who achieves middling results could benefit from becoming a bit more sophisticated when it comes to self-sales management.

Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principle of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network®
Waltham, Mass.

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